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Zeroing In On Excellence: Developing Leaders (Part 3)

The following leadership communication was written by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Mike Stevens. MCPON Stevens is the top enlisted person in the U.S. Navy and his talking points are geared to “the backbone” of the navy, our Navy Chiefs.

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Mike Stevens


I believe effectively and efficiently executing mission requires innovative leadership. Without competent leadership, even the most routine tasks can become difficult. In John Maxwell’s book, the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, he states, “Without leadership ability, a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership. The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership.” He calls this the Law of the Lid, which suggests “Wherever you look, you can find smart, talented successful people who are able to go only so far because of the limitations of their leadership”/ If our Navy is going to continue climbing, then we as Chief Petty Officers must always seek to increase our and our Sailors’ ability to lead.

We develop leaders through a combination of mentorship, practical experience and training. Do not downplay the acute impact you have in your routine daily interaction with enlisted and commissioned Sailors on how they ultimately evolve as leaders. It, more than any other element, sets the tone for exactly how singularly irreplaceable personal example is in building bold, accountable, confident leadership.

Much to our advantage, we already have a solid inventory of quality leadership training available. We need to ensure that the right people are delivering the training at the right time in the right way.

If you have not already done so, I encourage you to download the Petty Officer Selectee Leadership training material (E-4 – E-6) from NKO and take a look at it. What you will find is that, by-and-large, it is robust training. Recently, we revamped the Chief Selectee Leadership Training course to include vignettes with year-round training modules. Done correctly, this is an outstanding course of instruction.

U.S. Fleet Forces and Pacific Fleet are also offering a one-day leadership course of instruction called “Fleet CPO Training.” This is a shot in the arm that has proven to be very effective as noted in the large majority of critiques that have been received.

The Senior Enlisted Academy (SEA) in Newport, RI continues to provide top-notch education for all eligible E7 – E9s. Unfortunately for the past several years, we have not seen the participation necessary to meet SEA capacity. This is an exceptional opportunity for our Chief Petty Officer to hone and develop their leadership skills at the level required to function as a Departmental Leading Chief Petty Officer and is a prerequisite to become a Command Master Chief. It is my personal opinion that there should be such a desire to attend this course that it would be standing-room only with a waiting list to attend.

The Command Master Chief / Chief of the Boat course is a two-week senior level leadership course that does an outstanding job of preparing our CMCs and COBs to take on the challenging duties of command leadership. For a select few, we also offer the Keystone Course joint training with National Defense University, and the Navy Senior Leadership Seminar Course in Monterey, CA.

CPO 365 is our year-round, steady-state process for preparing First Class Petty Officers to join the CPO Mess. I view this as our most pervasive and creative avenue to productively engage Chiefs with petty officers and junior officers, and to form enduring relationships characterized by mutual respect. It is deliberately dynamic in nature, ideal for our diverse working environments and limited only by imagination.

I believe that if we take full advantage of each of these resources and deliver them correctly and consistently, we have a great opportunity to increase our entire force’s ability to lead and support the CNO’s tenets of Warfighting First, Operating Forward and Be Ready.

See the CNO’s Tenets in Action

It is my charge to every Chief Petty Officer to seek opportunities to receive and participate in consciously fostering the leadership necessary to ensure our Navy’s continued success today and in the future. By enthusiastically doing so, you will make a positive difference to all enlisted and commissioned Sailors serving our force.


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